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Friday, October 21, 2016

Five dollars? Really? To use your own money? Wow.

Bank of America’s decision to impose that fee for debit card use did not precipitate the Occupy Wall Street protests. But it does seem to embody much of what has driven thousands of people to the streets, first in the New York financial center and now in Boston, Los Angeles and other cities across the nation.

The fee carried an odor of pecuniary pettiness not dispelled by B of A’s claim that it was needed to recoup losses caused by a new federal regulation limiting the amount banks may charge retailers when you use a debit card. It felt like just another ding for consumers already dinged like the new car in a parking garage.

You pay a fee now to check your bags. You pay a fee to have an unlisted number. You pay a fee to buy show tickets. In some towns, you pay a fee for a plastic bag to carry your purchases. You pay a fee to pay your bills using the “pay by phone” feature from certain service providers.

So this decision to charge consumers for using their own money was the straw that put the camel in traction. It hacked people off.

Occupy Wall Street, then, feels like the right thing at the right time, like the harbinger of a new Zeitgeist — though not everyone is convinced.

Some observers dismiss the protests as “street theater,” an easy charge, given the loopy eccentrics who have been attracted to the movement like iron shavings to electromagnets. On the other hand, much of the anti-war movement, the women’s movement and the civil rights movement (rest in peace, Fred Shuttlesworth) was also street theater and those seem to have turned out fairly well.

The protesters have also been criticized for a lack of focus.

The proudly leaderless movement, organized (if that is the word) on social media, has yet to articulate its demands, even as individual demonstrators have advocated causes as disparate as saving the environment and ending the drug war. They don’t seem to get that when you try to say everything, you end up saying nothing.

But one suspects (or maybe just hopes) it would be a mistake to write off these events too quickly. “There comes a time,” Martin Luther King once said, “when people get tired.” When you spend evenings with pad and pen, trying to get the numbers on one side of the paper to line up with those on the other, when you spend nights not sleeping, wondering how long your job will last, when you spend days paying more money for less service, when it begins to seem as if the government that should be working for you is a wholly owned subsidiary of American business, when billions of dollars of your taxes goes to bail out money pigs who were too big to fail, when your fears are met with a tone deafness bordering on contempt (“Corporations are people,” says Mitt Romney; “If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself,” says Herman Cain; B of A has “a right to make a profit,” says CEO Brian Moynihan) … when that is your reality, you have good reason to be tired. Indeed, sic
k and.

So, like Arab potentates in the spring, one dismisses this autumn of American discontent at one’s own peril. Granted, we don’t yet know what’s happening here, but one thing seems apparent: Something is.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at [email protected])

  • LogicObserv123

    “Pedant” Webster’s : “one who emphasizes trivial points of learning” My Def: “Intentionally oblivious to the obvious big picture”.

    I have read a number of statements in the last week touching on the topic “what do the Occupy protestors REALLY want” and complaining that “they lack focus”, which is, in its own way as disingenuous and insulting as Eric Cantor labeling them a “mob”. This peaceful gathering of people lacks most of the definitive and defamatory mob characteristics: “disorderly, lawless, a gang of criminals.” These people know what they want. They want all the bullshit that is hurting them, that is destroying their country, to stop… It IS that simple. You do not need to “break it down” into details to understand it, to pigeon-hole the participants, and thus denigrate them. They are pissed -off, they know who the enemy is, and they are camped out on his doorstep..

    And if the commentators and critics could pull their pedantic little heads out of their nether regions, it is screamingly obvious that Occupy absolutely does have a “focus”. They are focusing on the big picture, not the petty details of each individual’s personal interests. They are actually focusing very tightly on the SINGLE ROOT CAUSE of all of the illnesses, suffering, injustices, stupidity and unresponsiveness plaguing the vast majority of the citizens of this nation. Do the pedantic morons not WANT to acknowledge the obvious and instinctive choice of Wall Street as the initial site of this protest? This Monument to unrelenting, unchained, sociopathic and self-destructive GREED? This root cause of every single personal issue causing damage to the economic, psychological and physical well-being of the 99%? Wake the hell up!

    Whether the individual concerns or issues be war-mongering, environmental destruction, corporate castration of the public media, Congressional corruption and paralysis, fraud, disastrous economic policy, perverted foreign policy, abortion issues, unemployment, discrimination based on age, race, gender, you name it; the root cause ALWAYS traces directly back to Wall Street, to the Banks, to the boardrooms of overreaching multinational corporate rapists. I use the word rapists after a good deal of thought. The secondary damages are caused by the crowd of whacko fundamentalists and bigots, who are consistently pandered to by these corporate interests to increase to number of votes they can get. The activities of the aforementioned rapists have in each case transcended capitalism, and each is dedicated to raping this nation and its inhabitants. “Money for nuthin’ ” is the underpinnings of this bunch. There is no morality, other than the morality of the unrestrained pursuit of profit. There is no patriotism, no concern for community other than the delusion that their activities are about job creation or that their activities are somehow more beneficial than they are destructive. That boat has already departed, and the name on the stern is “Economic Collapse”.

  • Ally Howell

    Mr. Pitts and LogicObserv123 you hit the nail on the head. And, now is a defining moment when people are fed up with being “trickled” on and being told it is raining. Trickle down economics is another way of saying “take whatever we choose to give you and shut up and be happy with it.”

  • Mother Outlaw

    Everyone is always saying that there is no focus in this movement. How about this? A nice coat of tar and feathers for all those who think they owe nothing to the United States of America and who think they are too big to fail. Just a suggestion.

  • Shaun Costello


  • Bob Dufur

    Along with the occupy wall street protests, I examined my receipts from such diverse places as Wendy’s, Home Depot, Publix, Wall-Mart, and Target. I realized that if the tax contained even 0.001 cents the amount was rounded up to the next dollar. Since sales tax is paid to the county and state on a quarterly basis, the corporations get to keep the fraction of a cent collected from each customer’s taxable purchases. So……. if Wall-Mart keeps 0.007 cents for each transaction and in any given quarter they service 500,000 customers, they make a profit of inappropriately $3,500.00 per store. Makes me wonder how many other ways corporate America gets to take money from the public without their knowledge.

  • rumpunch

    I read all the above comments (very good comments) and Mr. Costello’s blog. In the good ol’ days of the 60’s & 70’s we were told to stop the public protests and work within the “system”. Elect people who agreed with our positions. Well, it’s time for a different approach to things. With re-districting being the farce of our electoral process, it is very difficult to put all our eggs in the electoral process basket. As Deepthroat said, “Follow the money” and if we do that it leads to the source of the problem. Big money manipulators of our Democratic system. So the protestors are right in going to the financial source with hopes of correcting the problem.

  • robertlee1941

    I am totally fed up with the 1%, big banks and their cronies the Republican party. I don’t feel that I have a voice that is heard in The US of A. Hoorah!! for the demonstrators. I plead with the rest of America to join this movement and support it. WE THE PEOPLE founded this great nation with the idea of each man being created equal and having the unalienable rights of freedom and the pursuit of happiness. Since the year 2000 these rights have been systematically stripped from us!! Our homes and jobs have been ripped away and the very people that are supposed to protect these needs have been the ones that take and take and take! Enough!!! I am tired of the constant BS I hear coming from the Republicans. YOUR
    PARTY has caused this mess to become what it is starting over 30+ years ago with the voodoo trickle down theory that is now becoming a total disaster.
    Ms.Bauchman and Mit Romney (I hope I have spelled their names wrong!!) claim that this mess was and is being created by President Obama. I know that the Republicans are counting on the American people not being able to remember who really destroyed their nation–It sure wasn’t President Obama!! LIKE I STATED AT THE BEGINNING I AM FED UP!!!